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    The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
    • 2019-03-25 13:05:34
    • Article ID: 710163

    Getting to the root of the mystery:

    New research project could tell us how plants "talk" to microbes in soil

    • Credit: U.S Department of Energy, Ames Laboratory

      To better understand the rhizosphere, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory is developing a model instrument to look at the biological interactions in the rhizosphere in real time, in the field-- a capability that doesn’t currently exist. The instrument will accomplish this through the use of aptamers, which are short strands of genetic material that can be customized to bind to a wide variety of specific target molecules. With the help of computer software, a 3D image will be created of the targeted biochemicals in the root zone.

    The field of botany is well over a thousand years old, and the practice of agriculture millennia older than that. Yet surprisingly, little is understood how plant roots interact with soil at a molecular level, a narrow zone around roots of intense microbial activity that scientists call the rhizosphere.

    That zone of microbial activity could hold information valuable to understanding how plants stimulate microbes to transform nutrients and promote plant health, resist disease, and adapt to environmental changes and stress.

    “It’s an area of science very comparable to the microbiome in the human gut. We are just beginning to learn that human microbiotica play a role not just in our nutrition, but in other areas, like our neurological health,” said Marit Nilsen-Hamilton, an Ames Laboratory scientist and professor in the Roy J Carver Department of Biochemistry, Biophysics and Molecular Biology at Iowa State University. “In the same way with plants, we know that there are many complex processes and interactions going on in the rhizosphere, but we don’t have a clear picture of how they occur.”

    To better understand the rhizosphere, Nilsen-Hamilton is leading a new research endeavor at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, to develop a model instrument that will enable scientists to look at the biological interactions in the rhizosphere in real time, in the field-- a capability that doesn’t currently exist.

    The instrument will accomplish this through the use of aptamers, which are short strands of genetic material that  can be customized to bind to a wide variety of specific target molecules. The aptamers will function as monitors of specific molecules in the rhizosphere.

    Sensors that contain aptamers placed in the soil around the root zone will track the molecules in the soil that reflect activity such as signaling between microbes and plants.  With the help of computer software, a 3D image will be created of the targeted biochemicals in the root zone, in addition to tracking changes over time. The instrument, called 4DMAPS (4D analysis of Molecules by APtamers in Soil), will first be developed and tested in a laboratory setting before being implemented in a field environment to investigate the interaction of corn with microbes in the soil by detecting molecules produced by the microbes and plants, such as those produced in response to fungal infection.

    Because aptamers can be selected to track most biochemicals, Nilsen-Hamilton envisions the technology being applied in a variety of ways, including crop and environmental monitoring, and medical diagnosis and treatment.

    “It could be used to monitor orchards for early signs of stress or disease, or in agricultural research to compare the performance of different types of crops,” she said. “We expect to be able to get a lot of useful biological information from this system.”

    In addition to Nilsen-Hamilton, the research team includes Ludovico Cademartiri, Larry Halverson, George Kraus, Pranav Shrotriya, and Olga Zabotina, all contributing scientists at Ames Laboratory, and faculty at Iowa State University. The work is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, to further DOE goals for bioenergy and environmental research.

    Ames Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory operated by Iowa State University. Ames Laboratory creates innovative materials, technologies and energy solutions. We use our expertise, unique capabilities and interdisciplinary collaborations to solve global problems.

    DOE’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

     

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    Scientists hit pay dirt with new microbial research technique

    Scientists hit pay dirt with new microbial research technique

    Long ago, during the European Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci wrote that we humans "know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot." Five hundred years and innumerable technological and scientific advances later, his sentiment still holds true. But that could soon change. A new study in Nature Communications details how an improved method for studying microbes in the soil will help scientists understand both fine-grained details and large-scale cycles of the environment.

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    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

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    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

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    Scientists make first high-res movies of proteins forming crystals in a living cell

    Scientists make first high-res movies of proteins forming crystals in a living cell

    Scientists have made the first observations of proteins assembling themselves into crystals, one molecule at a time, in a living cell. The method they used to watch this happen - an extremely high-res form of molecular moviemaking ­- could shed light on other important biological processes and help develop nanoscale technologies inspired by nature.

    Blue Pigment from Engineered Fungi Could Help Turn the Textile Industry Green

    Blue Pigment from Engineered Fungi Could Help Turn the Textile Industry Green

    A new biosynthetic production pathway developed by scientists at the Joint BioEnergy Institute could provide a sustainable alternative to conventional synthetic blue dye. The highly efficient fungi-based platform may also open the door for producing many other valuable biological compounds that are currently very hard to manufacture.

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Metal-organic frameworks designed with a topology-guided approach show higher efficiency than commercial benchmarks.

    Advanced NMR at Ames Lab Captures New Details in Nanoparticle Structures

    Advanced NMR at Ames Lab Captures New Details in Nanoparticle Structures

    Advanced nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques at the U.S. Department of Energy'sAmes Laboratory have revealed surprising details about the structure of a key group ofmaterials in nanotechology, mesoporous silica nanoparticles (MSNs), and the placement of their active chemical sites.

    Plants' Oil-Production Accelerator Also Activates the Brakes

    Plants' Oil-Production Accelerator Also Activates the Brakes

    UPTON, NY--Scientists studying plant biochemistry at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory recently made a surprising discovery: They found that a protein that turns on oil synthesis also activates a protein that puts the brakes on the same process. In a paper just published in the journal Plant Physiology, they describe how this seemingly paradoxical system keeps oil precursors perfectly balanced to meet plants' needs.

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    Mineral Discovery Made Easier: X-Ray Technique Shines a New Light on Tiny, Rare Crystals

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    Like a tiny needle in a sprawling hayfield, a single crystal grain measuring just tens of millionths of a meter - found in a borehole sample drilled in Central Siberia - had an unexpected chemical makeup. And a specialized X-ray technique in use at Berkeley Lab confirmed the sample's uniqueness and paved the way for its formal recognition as a newly discovered mineral: ognitite.


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    John Crane acquires division of Advanced Diamond Technologies, a company built on Argonne technology

    John Crane acquires division of Advanced Diamond Technologies, a company built on Argonne technology

    John Crane, a global provider of engineered products and services headquartered in Chicago, recently completed the purchase of Advanced Diamond Technologies (ADT), Industrial Division. ADT was founded in 2003 through the licensing of technology from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Argonne National Laboratory.

    Energy Department to Invest $32 Million in Computer Design of Materials

    The U.S. Department of Energy announced that it will invest $32 million over the next four years to accelerate the design of new materials through use of supercomputers.

    Demarteau to head ORNL Physics Division

    Demarteau to head ORNL Physics Division

    The Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory has named Marcel Demarteau as Physics Division Director, effective June 17.

    PPPL and Oak Ridge manage new DOE program designed to speed development of fusion energy with private-public partnerships

    PPPL and Oak Ridge manage new DOE program designed to speed development of fusion energy with private-public partnerships

    Feature describes PPPL role in innovative DOE program to promote public-private partnerships to speed development of fusion energy.

    ORNL welcomes seven new research fellows to Innovation Crossroads

    ORNL welcomes seven new research fellows to Innovation Crossroads

    Oak Ridge National Laboratory welcomed seven technology innovators to join the third cohort of Innovation Crossroads, the Southeast's only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory.

    New DOE program connects fusion companies with national labs, taps ORNL to lead

    New DOE program connects fusion companies with national labs, taps ORNL to lead

    The Department of Energy has established the Innovation Network for Fusion Energy program, or INFUSE, to encourage private-public research partnerships for overcoming challenges in fusion energy development.

    Department of Energy Announces $75 Million for High Energy Physics Research

    The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $75 million in funding for 66 university research awards on a range of topics in high energy physics to advance knowledge of how the universe works at its most fundamental level.

    Ames Laboratory names James Morris Chief Research Officer

    Ames Laboratory names James Morris Chief Research Officer

    Dr. James Morris has been named Chief Research Officer at the Department of Energy's (DOE) Ames Laboratory. His appointment follows an extensive search and will be effective June 17, 2019.

    Four scientists at PPPL awarded national and international honors

    Four scientists at PPPL awarded national and international honors

    Feature profiles four PPPL scientists who have received high honors.

    Brookhaven's Mircea Cotlet Named a Battelle "Inventor of the Year"

    Brookhaven's Mircea Cotlet Named a Battelle "Inventor of the Year"

    The global science and technology organization Battelle recognized materials scientist Mircea Cotlet of Brookhaven Lab's Center for Functional Nanomaterials for his research in applying self-assembly methods to control the interfaces between nanomaterials and other light-interacting components.


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    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    STAR Gains Access to "Wimpy" Quarks and Gluons

    Low-momentum (wimpy) quarks and gluons contribute to proton spin, offering insights into protons' behavior in all visible matter.

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Flipping the Script with Reverse D-Shaped Plasmas

    Mirrored D shape demonstrates surprisingly high pressures in a tokamak, indicating a shape change may be in order for next-generation fusion reactors.

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Designer Frameworks for Refining Higher Octane Fuels

    Metal-organic frameworks designed with a topology-guided approach show higher efficiency than commercial benchmarks.

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    A Trojan Horse for Fusion Disruptions

    Thin-walled diamond shells carry payloads of boron dust; the dust mitigates destructive plasma disruptions in fusion confinement systems.

    Found: New Bismuth Compounds in Well-Known Systems of Two Elements

    Found: New Bismuth Compounds in Well-Known Systems of Two Elements

    Scientists discover an unexpected source of new materials, with potential for energy applications.

    Flowing for Function

    Flowing for Function

    A flowing magnetically responsive liquid seamlessly regulates the shape and properties of solids, letting them perform an array of jobs.

    Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration

    Superconducting Films for Particle Acceleration

    Researchers demonstrated record accelerating cavity performance using a technique that could lead to significant cost savings.

    Parceling Particle Beams

    Parceling Particle Beams

    Beam chopper cuts accelerator-generated ion beams under highly demanding conditions.

    An Interaction of Slipping Beams

    An Interaction of Slipping Beams

    Successful models of the fraught dynamics of two particle beams in close contact lead to smoother sailing in an area of particle acceleration.

    At DOE's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, science drives next-gen creations

    At DOE's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, science drives next-gen creations

    American ingenuity is providing radical productivity improvements from advanced materials and robotic systems developed at the Department of Energy's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


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